After a grind-it-out, physical series, the Thunder are advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals after a 118-104 series-clinching win over the Mavericks in Game 5.
The Thunder controlled things throughout most of the game before the Mavericks made things interesting in the fourth quarter, but OKC refused to let another late lead slip away as the home team closed out the game on an 11-to-1 run in front of a feisty Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd.
It was a high-octane game, but it was Mavericks’ owner, Mark Cuban, who set the table for what we saw in Game 5. Cuban thought it’d be a good idea to spark a fuse under the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook while talking with reporters before the game.
While Cuban responded to a question on whether Durant deserved All-NBA recognition, the owner made sure he let reporters know that he believes Durant is the only superstar on the OKC roster, and reiterated that Westbrook is an all-star, “but not a superstar.”
Westbrook clearly didn’t take those words lightly, as the dynamic point guard made sure his presence was felt very early on in Monday night’s game. On the first possession of the game, Westbrook lowered his head and sprinted towards the basket, where he effortlessly flicked in a layup to get things rolling for the Thunder. Westbrook was only getting started, as his first quarter featured back-to-back elbow jumpers, a 3-pointer, and an emphatic dunk which nearly blew the roof off the Peake.
Westbrook tallied 13 points in the opening frame, but his most important scoring stretch came in crunch time after Dallas cut its deficit to only three points once J.J. Barea drained a running jumper. OKC’s all-world point guard drilled his signature nothing-but-net jumper from the elbow, and then after Nowitzki made an open layup on the other end, Westbrook ripped off six straight points-- thanks to a pair of free throws and a couple jumpers—as his personal 8-to-2 run to put OKC up 107-98 with 5:13 left.
Russell Westbrook had some extra motivation tonight. pic.twitter.com/QonBnVCQIQ— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) April 26, 2016
Dallas went on to score only two more field goals as the Thunder completely dominated a wounded Mavericks’ team down the stretch. Westbrook finished with 36 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists compared to only three turnovers.
Along with Westbrook, Durant played an integral role in OKC’s fourth double-digit win of the series, as he flashed his scoring prowess continually throughout the game and finished with 33 points and seven rebounds.
OKC shot 50.6 percent from the field in the win, while Steven Adams controlled the paint and finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Dion Waiters added 11 off the bench, while Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter only combined to score seven points and grab three rebounds.
Despite not having much help, Dirk Nowitzki scored 24 points for Dallas while Dwight Powell added 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting.
The Thunder will take on the San Antonio Spurs in the second round, with Game 1 scheduled for Saturday.